JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

MicroRNAs and cancer stem cells: therapeutic approaches and future perspectives

J A Leal, M E Lleonart
Cancer Letters 2013 September 10, 338 (1): 174-83
22554710
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a sub-population of cancer cells that possess characteristics associated with normal stem cells but with the peculiarity that they are tumourigenic. This property allows them to persist in the tumour population, causing relapse and metastasis by giving rise to new tumours. Accordingly, if the CSCs were eliminated, then the tumour would simply regress due to differentiation and cell death. By selectively targeting CSCs, it may be possible to treat patients with aggressive, non-resectable tumours and prevent the tumour from metastasising. MicroRNAs are involved in all biological processes, and several studies have demonstrated their function in human tumourigenesis. Importantly, microRNAs have been implicated in the regulation of stem cells and CSCs. The most important concept to emerge with regard to CSC therapy is still controversial because a number of signalling pathways unique to normal stem cells may also be operating in CSCs, and these offer new targets for therapy. This article reviews how the modulation of microRNAs may revert tumour proliferation in vivo and in vitro and how this approach could be transferred to the clinic. Although the delivery of therapeutic microRNAs to target cells is a challenge that still needs to be overcome, microRNAs offer the advantage that they are small molecules that can be easily transported by body fluids, which makes them good candidates for cancer therapy.

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